Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beating the Heat- Saving Spring Plants in Summer Heat

Here in North East Oklahoma it has been quite warm for March. It's been in the 80's for several weeks. While working in the garden yesterday I noticed that one variety of lettuce was bolting. Bolting means that the plant is going to seed.
This lettuce is bolting, note the long stem and beginning of flower head on top.
It starts, for lettuce, with a long shoot sticking up which will soon bear flowers and a huge amount of seeds. This made me wonder what are some better ways of keeping them cool, especially since it is in full sun. I have several beds around my yard, my old trusty one next to the house only gets a few hours of sun a day. Making it perfect for cool season crops in the heat of summer. Here are some tips to help your plants beat the heat of an early summer, or warm spring.

1. Water often. Try watering in the morning and evening, careful not to get it on leaves during the hottest part of the day. This helps keep the plant cool.
2. Shade netting. I have never tried this, but it sounds promising. I am thinking about using a sheet instead of buying something. Be sure and leave several inches above the plants for air circulation.
3. Mulching. If you have room to mulch around your plants this could be beneficial as it helps hold in moisture. My lettuce plants are much to close for this, I grow them as cut and come again lettuce, not heads.
4. Planting in the shade of another plant. Companion planting is an option. Try putting carrots in the shade of tomato's, or lettuce in the shade of a taller plant. This may not help out at this moment, but it will eventually. In Louise Riotte's book, Carrots Love Tomatoes, she mentions that peas grow well with cucumbers. I do think I will try this one.

What are some of your favorite tricks for saving your plants? Has any of these tips helped you in the past?

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Poo Problems Week 3

First I would like to say sorry I haven't posted lately, been super busy. I was going great with the no poo method of hair care. My hair was awesome, until the day I had to work at my boys spring carnival. I only worked for 30 minutes, but the room was so hot I was sweating. Not a non smelling sweat either. It smelled just like ACV! I wondered if anyone thought I was hording pickles in my pocket. It was terribly embarrassing. Has anyone else ever used the no poo method and then had a problem with the smell? I am at a loss as to what to do, I really liked the baking soda and vinegar rinse. Should I use less ACV? I was doing both every other day. I could really use your opinions, Thanks!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

I'm not gonna lie, I am not a big fan of store bought yogurt. I have texture issues with it and what exactly does that ingredient list say? So I ran across making your own yogurt several weeks ago and thought, hey maybe this will be different. I know home made bread and granola is better than store bought, so why not try it? Well I did using this recipe first. It worked and I liked it, then I ran across one of my favorite blogs post. The Girls Guide to Guns and Butter, if you haven't checked her blog out you should. Here is her recipe its good, its easier and takes less starter that has weird things in the ingredients. She also provides recipes for the multitude of uses besides with granola. I haven't tried them yet, but trust me its next on my list. I used a half gallon of whole milk and one tbsp of starter, which was a greek yogurt. I even drained the whey off of it just like she said and its thicker and tangy. I am impressed with myself thanks to her. I even bought a thermometer so I could make it exact and my oven's pilot kept the yogurt quite warm all night. I got a full quart and a little over a pint out of it. I store mine in canning jars and write on the lids and reuse them. Do you make yogurt?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rain Collecting

Does it rain at your house? If so, which I hope it does, do you collect the rain? If you don't your missing out on an opportunity to water your garden with free water. There are several different ways you can collect rain water. You could set a bucket under a spot that gets lots of run off. You could set up a gutter system to direct the flow. You could even string up a tarp with the edges higher than the center and have it connected to a container. Lets don't forget rain barrels, my choice in collecting. I have two, they aren't frilly or anything special. Just some run of the mill kind I got at Atwood's on sale. I didn't even buy them in the same year so I could space out the cost. They were about $60 each.
 I was at a farm store the other day and saw some fancy one that had a planter on top and was colored like a clay pot. It was designed for a gutter to be placed above it and was $100. I was shocked at the price. Right next to it was a different one that looked like a barrel but was plastic, also designed for gutter and was almost as much. This got me thinking about how lucky I was that I had spent way less on mine. It also got me to thinking about what everyone else was doing. I spoke to my son's Cub Scout pack on monday evening about gardening and I asked very simple questions about weather they grew things before, if they knew what things a seed needed to grow a fruit or veggie. I also asked if they collected rain to water their garden, only my kids did. They know how fun it is to lug heavy buckets of water around to water their plants. So this made me think more. Do people not know how easy it is or how much money they will save? Do they think they have to put up guttering and ruin their roof, which you don't by the way. So I am here writing this post hoping to give you some ideas on how to save money, time and water. First when you decide you want a rain barrel, it might be a good idea to see if your town allows them. You can read some about this here. I also like to scout areas to see if its applicable to have it their. I don't want it on the flat side a roof where hardly any or no water runs off.
Not the best location for a rain barrel, it is flat with the house.
 Its also a good idea to take a look at the ground you wish to set it up on. Is it going to be cornered in and let water build up and leak into your garage? I had this problem when I put it in an awesome corner that gets lots of runoff off the house. Because I raised the barrel using cinder blocks leaves and debris built up and blocked the water from being able to go around the barrels base. My chickens are also fond of hiding behind it and trying to make nests, so we are moving it this year. Speaking of raising the barrel, if you want to be able to drain it with ease or hook it to water hose you will need to raise it. It helps gravity along, and remember its not a water spicket like the one attached to your house, you wont have much if any pressure behind the flow.
The corner of the house has good runoff, making it a great spot for a rain barrel.
This year I am going to raise my main barrel so I can attach it to the hose and spare myself and my children from lugging heavy buckets. Ok so, you have a spot picked out and your debating a barrel type. Don't want to spend all that money on one? No problem, find a store that resales soda barrels. My brothers rain barrel is one, an old mountain dew barrel. All we did was cut the top off and put some mesh over it, attach a spicket at the base and your good to go. Make sure its a food grade barrel please. Now when you find your barrel and decide where to put it, you need to level it a bit. You don't want it falling over in a storm when it should be filling up. I just put a few cinder blocks under it, leveling dirt with a hoe when needed. When its all set up you just need to wait for rain.

Ready and waiting for rain.
When it does rain, you will probably notice that your barrel it getting a build up of grit from the shingles or dirt from rain or various other things in it that the mesh screen didn't filter out. You do have to clean them out occasionally. I use a little soap and a scrubber, after it is empty and I spray out the muck. I end up doing this about once a year. If you notice you arent using the water fast enough and its turning green and the sides are slimy, you could add small fish. Make sure your barrel is shaded if you do or you will have cooked dead fish. Yes this happend to me, quite nasty. Using the water isnt hard, I fill up my water pail or 5 gallon buckets and go about my business. Other than the periodical cleaning you will want to make sure you protect your barrel from freezing tempuratures. There is no reason to spend the time and money buying it and setting it up if your just going to let it ruin. I clean mine in the fall and put them in my shed. I just brought one out the other day before it rained. I know its a little early, but its so warm this spring. Mine have lasted 2 and 3 years so far and I am hopeing to get much more out of them. I know they have already saved me the amount of money I paid for them. I really hope you learned something from this and maybe decided to get a rain barrel or not. If you have anymore ideas, please share them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No Poo Week 2

I am still loving the no poo, Ill admit though, I thought I was going to have to shampoo my hair the other day. I used coconut oil on the tips because my hair was dry and had static cling bad. I had never done this before, so I just dipped my fingers in some oil and rubbed it in. Well, that was a little, ok a lot more oil than my hair could handle. I of course didnt notice, I did it in the kitchen while I was baking. I just put my hair up and went about baking for an hour then went and no poo'd as normal. I waited and waited for my hair to dry, seemed like it took a long time. Then I noticed it looked darker where the oil was, and then I noticed it was really dry, the oil just made it look wet. Oh no! I couldnt rebaking soda it, I was stuck, so I waited it out and wore my hair in a bun for two days until I could wash it again. It looked horribly greasy, but now its pretty awesome and I will know better next time about the oil. Are you trying or have you ever tried no poo? How did it work for you?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade Granola

Homemade granola sounds hard or at least it did to me, until I tried it. I love it, its so easy to make, delicious and healthy. As a bonus this could very easily be made gluten free, if you buy certified gluten free products. My first attempt ended in a slightly burnt granola, but good never the less. Oh and the prunes I put in it where rock hard and had to be picked out. I don't have a fancy pan to make it in, just a plain old cake pan. Here is the original recipe I used http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/cherry-almond-and-cinnamon-granola-recipe/index.html I didn't have cherry's, so I used diced prunes, which are awesome. I was worried when buying what I needed that the almonds would be expensive. They are, but if you buy whole almonds and chop them yourself you save a couple of bucks. One bag of whole almonds made two batches of granola for me. I tried chopping them in my food processor and in my coffee grinder like I did the flax seed. Yeah I had huge chunks and almond flour at the same time. So out came the cutting board. I can't seem to not tweak recipes, so here is my version of granola. I hope you have better luck with your first batch than I did.
This is before adding oil and honey.

Flax Seed Granola
4 cups rolled oats
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups chopped almonds (cheaper than sliced)
1 cup coarsely ground flax seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Preheat oven to 350. Mix the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the oil and honey together and pour on the dry ingredients, mixing well. It takes a fair amount of mixing. Sprinkle cinnamon and yeast on top. Mix well, again this takes a bit of stirring. Bake in cake pan or whatever pan works. When you baking stir it often, like every 5 minutes or so. I flatten it back out when I do so it cooks more evenly. Bake it until it is a nice golden brown. Let it cool stirring occasionally. I stored mine in mason jars and it lasted several weeks. Makes a great bowl of cereal and my boys liked it. Sorry I haven't perfected putting fruit in it yet, but you can always sprinkle it on top. Its also very good in yogurt, come to think of it I need to make more yogurt now that I have made more granola.
Just placed in the oven.
All done, kind of hard to tell the difference in the pictures, but its done I promise.